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Change of Direction will add more residential housing to Port City in 2024

By Scott Pettigrew Jul 7, 2023 | 6:00 PM

Phase one of the residential apartment building development known as “The Vistas” is continuing to move forward at 60-80 Technology Drive, with the first of potentially five buildings set to open in May of 2024.

Following the acquisition of over 10 acres of land from Commercial Properties Limited in 2021 as part of a land amassment effort for the site, Melanie Dowd-Martell co-owner of Somerset Living says the first building is “on schedule” to deliver 87 units in spring of next year.

The total Technology Drive property is now almost 34 acres.

“When we presented this to the city, the proposal was for five buildings in total, over time,” Dowd-Martell says.  “There’s ample space up there to have the building that we’re currently constructing and four additional buildings, and still have plenty of green space around them.”

She says the decision on when the other buildings will be built will be determined by the absorption of the units from the first development into the market and the assessment of ongoing demand.

Building one, located at 60 Technology Drive at “The Vistas” as the entire development will be known, will contain 87 units ranging from one-bedroom, one-bathroom units in the 600 square foot range, to two-bedroom, two-bathroom units in the 1030 square foot range. There are also units with den options.

And then there’s the coveted corner units, also featuring two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with views of city down to the harbour. Those are the most spacious at 11,140 square feet. But being at the top of a hill, unobstructed by other tall buildings, there are no shortage of great views at this location including all the way down to the river at the rear-facing view from the fourth floor.

“Nothing will ever be in front of this building,” Dowd-Martell explains, harkening back to the decision to acquire the additional 10 acres of land. “There will be plenty of space between [the buildings], there’s not going to be any congestion. It’s not going to be like living Uptown. It’s a little bit more of a rural feeling in an urban environment”.

While rents have still not been determined yet, Dowd-Martell says that there will be five “barrier-free” units for residents with accessibility issues, some of which also fall into the affordable housing category, with lower than market rate rents. There will be nine affordable units in total. None of the rents for the units has been determined as of yet.

She says there has been interest, in part from inter-provincial digital nomads, mostly from people who already live in the area, who want to stay in the neighborhood but to downsize post-retirement.

“We all live in Millidgeville,” Dowd-Martell says of Somerset Living owners and staff. “We’re very in touch with the fact that our community is aging and this is the kind of thing that they need and want.”

The building will feature an underground parking garage, a common room with a kitchenette and a fitness center.

“The building is a concrete structure which is unique to our city, in terms of the more recent developments,” Dowd-Martell says, adding that the material is known for sound barrier protection. “You’ll never hear your neighbour.”

Originally, Somerset Investments was interested in building a business park at the site when it acquired the land more than 20 years ago. The decision to change the zoning to residential also came with a corporate rebrand of one arm of the business to Somerset Living.

“We built the Xerox building, and at that point there was just a really high demand for business developments and technology specifically in that sector. So it was originally branded and built as a business park.”

She says that while they were ready to go with developing the needed technology labs and office space that “it didn’t catch.”

“We had multiple proposals that fell flat and just never materialized.”

They realized they needed a change in direction and contacted the organization now known as Envision Saint John for direction about other possible uses for the land. Immediately the organization recommended that they consider a residential development for the site, as the need for more housing was already beginning to materialize.

“They were the ones that suggested…that this would make an excellent location for a large, upscale residential development. And we just kind of ran with it from there.”

It turns out that a lot of the characteristics that made the idea as a work environment also made for a great living environment as well.

“You’re right off Somerset Street, close to parks and restaurants, the RKYC [Royal Kennebeccasis Yacht Club] and major employers like the hospital and the university….it’s right on the bus route.”

Dowd-Martell says prelease forms are currently available on the website.

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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